Guys. Hey, hey guys. The Washington Redskins are in first place.
Just as we all expected three months ago, right?
Kirk Cousins and the Skins continued their pattern of beating the teams they probably should beat, which is absolutely terrific news, because nobody likes losing to the Rams. The big question that remains is whether or not they can beat teams that are better than they are. I'm not talking Patriots or Panthers good, but what about teams like the Jets, the Vikings, the Steelers, the Seahawks, etc.? It doesn't really matter yet, as, again, this is a rebuilding year, but it would certainly be reassuring to see them pull out three or more wins in these final five games.
Anyway, to the lists. For the first time in three games, we have a full, traditional Three Good/Three Bad. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: There were many options to choose from for this game. No, Kirk Cousins is not in the Good. Yes, I do think Kirk Cousins was one of the Redskins' best players Sunday, and easily the best offensive player. I'm not including him this week mostly because I'm curious to see who people vote for in the poll without him as an option. Once again, this is simply an acknowledgement of three good players (or non-players) and three bad from the game, not a ranking of the three best and three worst players.
#1. Quinton Dunbar
How can you not mention this kid? An undrafted free agent receiver who only made the team because he switched over to cornerback — thanks to all the mainstays being either hurt, suspended or bad (oh hey there, David Amerson) — and played "pretty dang good" in practice, and he comes out and breaks up a few passes and picks off Eli Manning in the endzone. I won't elaborate on this any further because you've likely heard all about him by now, but this is worth a click.
#2. Ryan Kerrigan
Yes, he had two sacks. Just as importantly, or perhaps more so, he was involved throughout the game. Throughout the season, he's disappeared for much or all of many games, and heading into last week's game against the Panthers, Kerrigan had recorded just 3.5 sacks on the season. He's recorded three in the past two games. Even when he didn't get the sack on Manning, he still put pressure on him and forced difficult throws. He was credited with three QB hits and a deflected pass on Sunday, and the threat of him coming either around the side or up the middle helped open lanes for other rushers.
#3. Bashaud Breeland
I really just can't say enough about the guy. He gave up a few catches, which was to be expected, consider he was primarily matched up against one of the most incredible pass-catchers the NFL has seen in a long time — maybe ever — and Manning threw 51 passes. But he deflected passes, sealed windows, made tackles and forced throws to receivers not named Beckham throughout the game. Of those 51 attempts, Manning completed just 26 passes while throwing three interceptions; Beckham was targeted 18 times but managed just nine catches. Breeland's stats don't reflect it, but he played an enormous role in the final result.
Honorable Mentions: Jay Gruden/Sean McVay (play-calling creativity and run game), Alfred Morris, DeSean Jackson, Chris Baker, Will Blackmon, Tress Way
#1. Jordan Reed
With eight catches for 98 yards, Jordan Reed definitely didn't have a "bad" day. But if things had panned out a bit differently in, say, the third quarter, there would have been some finger pointing in Reed's direction. Three penalties in the first 16 minutes of action — by a tight end, no less — is unforgivable. Unless, of course, you clean it up and finish the day with numbers like Reed did. So he made up for his mistakes, to an extent. But if Dunbar hadn't picked off Manning in the endzone and the Giants had instead scored, as it looked like they were ready to do, all of a sudden the Redskins are facing a modest 17-7 lead and the momentum is back on New York's side. Reed's penalties early on helped stall two separate drives that could have led to touchdowns but instead led to three total points.
#2. The Little Guys
Sunday was a day for the Redskins' stars, at least at the offensive skill positions. Alfred Morris, Matt Jones, DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon combined for 353 yards from scrimmage, which is a great sign for the Redskins. In a big game, you want to go to the guys you know and can trust. However, almost everybody else was ignored or ineffective; Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Chris Thompson, Andre Roberts and Derek Carrier combined for just 53 yards from scrimmage. If anything, that says more good things about the first group than it does bad things about the second, but it would have been nice to see one of the second-tier guys make more of an impact. Yes, I am nitpicking.
#3. Scot McCloughan
Bear with me for a second. I'm obviously not suggesting he's bad at his job; almost every player he's acquired since coming to the Redskins has paid dividends, and Amerson might be the only one who is playing especially well elsewhere. The man is clearly very good at his job.
But the guy has a huge amount of tough decisions to make this offseason, and with the Redskins overachieving like they have, those decisions are only getting harder. I just feel bad for the guy, though these are the good problems to have as a general manager. I have a more extensive look at this issue coming today, so keep an eye out for that.